What the Story of Echo and Narcissus Tells Us About Self-Love

 

I. What’s worse, a hottie you can’t have who knows he’s a hottie?  Or a hottie you can’t have who has no idea she’s a hottie?  The former rejects you because he thinks he’s too good for you.  The latter because she thinks you’re too good for her.

II. Did Narcissus know he’s a hottie?  All versions of the story I’ve read think he does, but I’m not so sure. Maybe he was just weirded out by all the attention he’d been receiving and wanted it to stop?

III. It’s easy and comforting to feel superior to the hottie who knows she’s a hottie.  “Arrogant, superficial bitch, not worth the trouble,” Larry the lackey tells himself before he runs home to jerk off to rape porn. No such option with the awkward hottie who has no idea he’s gorgeous. Hating him is like hating a puppy you can’t have.

IV. Find it improbable that Narcissus had never seen a reflection of himself until Nemesis, goddess of divine retribution, led him to do so so he’d fall in love with himself. Dude had to have been sipping water from streams and ponds all his life and nothing ever happened, never went on a selfie binge.  It’s more likely that Nemesis replaced his naivety (and nonchalance?) with vanity so when he got a drink at the pond, as he always does, he fell in love with himself and his selfie.

V.   Nemesis doesn’t get much action in the story.  Yet she’s more important than Echo, who is just a foil, and without Nemesis, there’s no Narcissus.  Nemesis doesn’t just punish evil deeds, but also corrects undeserved good fortune, like making sure lazy Larry loses all 10 million of his lotto winnings within five, excruciating years. Born gorgeous?  Don’t think you’re off the hook, and many fashion models would agree.

VI. My interpretation and re-telling of the story: Narcissus is a heart-breaker, not because he’s vain, but because he’s so not.  Nemesis says this needs to stop, people — of dubious virtue — are wasting away because of him. She could turn him ugly, as gods and goddesses sometimes do as punishment, but that’s not retributive if Narcissus doesn’t care if he’s ugly (my theory).  Better to curse him with self-love instead, have him ogle his selfie until he dies. This way he learns what it’s like for others to love him, to suffer as they have.

VII. The point is that Narcissus wasn’t a narcissist until cursed by Nemesis. Narcissus recognizes the reflection as a selfie and his love of it as a disease.  From Ovid’s Metaphorphoses, Book III: 437-473:

 I am he. I sense it and I am not deceived by my own image. I am burning with love for myself. I move and bear the flames. What shall I do? Surely not court and be courted? Why court then? What I want I have. My riches make me poor. O I wish I could leave my own body! Strange prayer for a lover, I desire what I love to be distant from me. Now sadness takes away my strength, not much time is left for me to live, and I am cut off in the prime of youth. Nor is dying painful to me, laying down my sadness in death. I wish that him I love might live on, but now we shall die united, two in one spirit.

Narcissism, or vanity, kills Narcissus. And he knows it.

VIII. Takeaway: OUR nemesis — “the inescapable agent of someone’s or something’s downfall” — then, are those who tell us to love ourselves.  And the moment we engage in self-love is when we begin to die as Narcissus had.

IX. “But self-love has nothing to do with narcissism,” many object.  What’s self-love, then, according to promoters of self-love? Here’s one definition I found online:

Self love is the belief you hold that you are a valuable and worthy person.

Valuable and worthy of what and to whom? According to every great religion and every great philosopher (yes, even Rousseau), everyone is a piece of shit, everyone deserves a life of pain and suffering and anyone who thinks otherwise is going batshit crazy.  But let’s play along and maintain the distinction between self-love and narcissism.  How do you think narcissism begins?  It begins with entitlement and that begins with thinking highly of oneself (“valuable” and “worthy,” regardless of actions and results). Inches down this slope is selfishness, where one thinks one deserves better treatment than do others precisely because one is more “valuable” and “worthy,” than are others. So it’s looking like all signs point to “self-love” and its concomitant theories about “self-esteem” as the breeding ground of narcissism. That explains why Larry the loser can’t figure out, while he’s jerking off, why he doesn’t bang the same hot babes as Sam the surgeon does. Or why mediocre Mina can’t figure out why the man of her dreams doesn’t propose to her and treat her like the beautiful and brilliant princess she thinks she is.  Would this explain why everyone has the same complaint — narcissistic profiles — about online dating?

X. Self-love is the normalization of narcissism.  That’s why it’s so dangerous, it’s like having a disease without realizing it.

 

 

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